“Failed stars” host powerful auroral displays

30 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Brown dwarfs are relatively cool, dim objects that are too massive to be planets, yet they are too small to sustain hydrogen fusion reactions. By observing a brown dwarf 20 light-years away, researchers have found another feature that makes these so-called failed stars more like supersized planets — they host powerful aurorae near their magnetic poles.


Race to detect gravitational waves intensifies

31 March 2015 Astronomy Now

One of the great challenges in astrophysics is the detection of low-frequency gravitational waves — elusive ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by extremely energetic and large-scale cosmic events. To this end, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves $14.5 million over 5 years.


ALMA sees super stellar nurseries at heart of starburst galaxy

16 February 2015 Astronomy Now

Starburst galaxies transmute gas into new stars up to 1,000 times faster than typical spiral galaxies like the Milky Way. To try and understand why, an international team of astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimetre Array (ALMA) to dissect a cluster of star-forming clouds at the heart of NGC 253 — one of the nearest starburst galaxies.